Rippavilla Plantation is on the southern edge of Spring Hill. // FILE PHOTO
By MATT BLOIS
Spring Hill created a new council on Monday that will oversee the management of tourism and historic properties in the city.
A task force researching how the city will coordinate with an outside organization to manage the Rippavilla Plantation recommended creating the council as a way to oversee that property.
The council would also help manage any other historic properties that city might buy in the future. The city is hoping historic properties will attract visitors, so the council will also help the city coordinate other events that might draw tourists to the city.
Last year, the nonprofit that manages Rippavilla donated the plantation to Spring Hill, and the city plans to use some of its hotel and motel tax to maintain the property. Earlier this month, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen asked the Rippavilla Task Force to come up with a way for the city to have a say in how the plantation is managed. After some long discussions, the task force voted recommended creating the tourism council to advise the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Rippavilla and anything else related to tourism.
At the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Monday, Kayce Williams, who leads the task force, said the council was a way for the city to look ahead.
“The intent was to develop a tourism council that would continue on through the years … not just in historic properties but other events,” she said.
The council will include representatives from the Historic Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Economic Development Commission and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. It would also include one other member chosen by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
At the work session earlier this month, aldermen and members of the Rippavilla task force had considered turning the task force into a permanent committee to help manage the plantation. Another option, was to give that responsibility to the existing Historic Commission.
Historic properties like Rippavilla are a big draw for tourists, but the city also hopes to turn the grounds of the plantation into a public park. Attracting more visitors to Spring Hill would could also change the way the city approaches economic development.
The combination of all those factors makes it hard to assign managing the property to just one existing commission. Williams said having members from several different commissions will bring in all of those perspectives.
“It would have input from all the diverse things that tug at this one facility,” she said.
The board voted Monday to accept the tasks force’s recommendations, creating the new council.
In the same proposal, the task force also recommended a framework for how the city should manage Rippavilla. It recommended contracting with an outside organization to operate the property. That organization would be responsible for the operation of the property and the city would contribute $100,000 each year from the hotel and motel tax to maintain and improve the property.
At first, the plantation will likely use some of that money to cover operating costs, but within a few years the city hopes that special events, such as weddings, will cover pay for the operation of the plantation. Then, all of the city’s money would go towards improving and maintaining the plantation.
Rippavilla Inc., the nonprofit which currently manages the property, has submitted a proposal for managing the property, but the city hasn’t accepted it yet.